Shadow Climate Change and Energy Minister Mark Butler has attacked calls from Government backbenchers to scrap the Renewable Energy Target (RET). Labeling the push, which former PM Tony Abbott initially advanced, a “hard-right agenda,” Butler noted that Malcolm Turnbull has been silent on the matter.
The Australian reported today that a growing number of Coalition MPs are arguing that Australia should follow suit if the U.S. pulls out of the Paris climate change under President Trump.
The Australian reports that two unnamed Coalition MPs have said that scrapping the RET is “getting a lot of traction very quickly” and that the idea is “widespread” amongst conservative ranks.
When asked on ABC radio about this claim, deputy PM Barnaby Joyce said that the government does not intend to walk away from the Paris agreement. However, he did not explicitly support the RET.
The New England electorate of Joyce, pictured above, has seen some of the biggest investments in wind and solar energy over the past 12 months.
“We don’t sign agreements to pull out of them,” said Joyce. “We go into them, we negotiate with the belief that if you sign a piece of paper, you should be sticking to it.”
Butler’s attack came as the unions also complained against the latest Coalition attempts to stymie the renewable energy industry, just as large scale investment was finally poised to take off after years of under-investments and reliance on schemes such as the ACT’s or from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, an institution the Coalition has sought to de-fund.
Clean Energy Council CEO Kane Thornton also tweeted his surprise, saying that “pollies must be crazy brave” to call for such a popular policy to be slashed.
Labor’s Mark Butler says that Joyce’s response is inadequate to support the renewable sector and to reassure investors.
“All we’ve heard this morning from the Deputy Minister Barnaby Joyce is a resounding refusal by him to endorse the renewable energy target that the Government itself settled less than two years ago with the industry, and with the Australian Parliament,” said Butler.
“Energy policy in this country is becoming a shambles and a real threat to the economy and Australian households and businesses under this Government.”
Butler said that the 23% RET can be achieved without posing a threat to energy security.
“We can do this in a reliable way,” said Butler. “All of the experts agree with that, the Chief Scientist, the Industry itself, and we’ve got the jobs and the investment just waiting.
“We can’t deal with interruptions to confidence like the sort of Trumpian agenda we now see within the Liberal party in Australia.”